Atlantic Nuclear Force

Oral Answers to Questions — Board of Trade – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th April 1965.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes 12:00 am, 29th April 1965

asked the Prime Minister to what extent his proposals discussed in Bonn with the Federal German Government for the creation of an Atlantic Nuclear Force are designed to give that Government an indirect say in nuclear policy.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

asked the Prime Minister if, following his visits to Bonn and the United States of America, he will have further discussions with the Government of the German Federal Republic on proposals to give the Federal Republic a share in the control and operation of nuclear weapons; and whether he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

With permission, I will answer this Question and Question No. 9 together.

If by "an indirect say in nuclear policy"—the words in the Question—the hon. and gallant Member means any right direct or indirect to initiate nuclear action, the answer, as I explained at length in the foreign affairs debate on the 16th of December last, is that under our proposals no existing non-nuclear power would obtain that right. On the contrary our proposals contain built-in guarantees against dissemination and acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Photo of Mr Tufton Beamish Mr Tufton Beamish , Lewes

Is not the Prime Minister running a serious risk of being accused of speaking with two voices? How does he reconcile his statement rather more than two years ago that he was utterly opposed in all circumstances to Germany having any say in allied nuclear policy with his promise in December that these A.N.F. proposals were to give Germany a direct part to play in the mounting and management of nuclear weapon systems? Surely those two statements are quite irreconcilable.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The hon. and gallant Gentleman will find that the phrase I used in the debate on 31st January, 1963, was "No German finger on the trigger directly or indirectly in any circumstances." That is the position which will he safeguarded under the Atlantic Nuclear Force proposals and would apply equally to other non-nuclear members of the alliance.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

Can the Prime Minister say how his proposal differs in any way from the position in the N.A.T.O. alliance now?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Yes, Sir, simply because, as the right hon. Gentleman was at great pains to point out when he was at this Dispatch Box, Germany is prevented under treaty obligations from making nuclear weapons. There was nothing in these treaties to prevent Germany from acquiring or receiving nuclear weapons, having them supplied or entering into some agreement with the French. Under our proposals it would be a safeguard that Germany could not receive, nor could anyone supply to Germany or to any other non-nuclear Power.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

Is the Prime Minister saying that his proposal about the A.N.F. does not give Federal Germany any right or say in the control and operational planning of nuclear weapons? Does he seriously say that?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I dealt with this at great length on 16th December and I ask the hon. Member to study the words which I used. I said that in so far as it is in any sense, to use the rather loose phrase, "a finger on the trigger", there is certainly no proposal to give anyone extra power so far as the movement of the trigger is concerned. In other words, Germany and other non-nuclear Powers would have no power to initiate nuclear action. As regards the agreement on targeting and nuclear policy—[Interruption.]—if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) does not understand the difference between having a finger on the trigger to cause a gun to be fired and the right to be consulted about targeting and nuclear policy in general he had better go back and study this all over again.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

Surely, the right hon. Gentleman knows that, under the present N.A.T.O. alliance arrangements, Germany has full right to be consulted about targeting and to bring anything before the N.A.T.O. Nuclear Committee. In his proposals about this force, is there anything that differs in any respect from the N.A.T.O. alliance arrangements in that connection?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Yes, indeed there is. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that the matter was very fully deployed on 16th December. If he was satisfied about the participation of Germany and other non-nuclear Powers in preparations and the targeting situation, I am not quite clear why his Government made proposals to increase those powers.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

Can the Prime Minister tell us what the next step will be over these proposals? Who has agreed to them, and what were the follow-ups?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

As I think the whole House well understands, the position is that not much progress is likely to be made with the M.L.F., the A.N.F., or anything else this side of the German elections. It would be quite unrealistic for anyone to suppose that that would happen. We realised that all along. But there is in progress the working group in Paris examining the technical proposals and examining what is the new factor in the situation, our A.N.F. proposals as compared with the M.L.F. proposals on which right hon. Gentlemen opposite, over two years, could not agree even in their own Cabinet.

Photo of Mr Hugh Jenkins Mr Hugh Jenkins , Wandsworth Putney

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the view has been expressed by the German Government and in the West German Press that the line between the negative control which he envisages and positive participation is a thin one which will be eroded very quickly?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

This, of course, was the position as regards the M.L.F. proposal which we found holding the field when we came in, but I think the big difference between that and these proposals is the very clear provision, through safeguards and guarantees which were spelt out to the House, about non-acquisition and non-dissemination of nuclear weapons.